In Part One of our interview with Melissa Reeves, the acclaimed actress discussed her aspirations to be a dancer in New York, and her experience working on the brand new soap, SANTA BARBARA. In Part Two below, Reeves reflects on Jennifer Rose's trials and tribulations in the 1980s on DAYS OF OUR LIVES, the Jack & Jennifer phenomenon, and offers insights into working with the late Frances Reid and Macdonald Carey. With which co-star did she share a book club? Find out below!
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Tell me about working with Frances Reid.
Melissa Reeves: She taught me everything about this business. We would sit in her room for hours every single day. Every single day. She was really the only person I worked with aside from Michael T. Weiss for the longest time. She would teach me, she would tell me stories. She was a feisty old bull, and would tell me the realities of life. I hung on her every word. I still do. They have Jennifer now living in the Horton house. The chair that she sat in for so many years is still on the set. Every time I walk in there I have to hold back the tears. It is still really hard to even be on that set. She was like my real grandmother.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Many have described her to me as rebellious and headstrong, as you have described yourself.
Melissa Reeves: Oh yes [laughs], we got along fabulously.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You had a lot of scenes with Frances where you discussed the value of purity and virginity.
Melissa Reeves: We were the last two people who should have been talking about that.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How about Macdonald Carey?
Melissa Reeves: Mac and I had our own little book club. He read all the time. He started having me read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, poetry, and so many books. I would finish one and he would give me another one. He was amazing. I called it, “The Me and Mac Book Club.” I remember being at work one day and noticing that he was getting old. That was hard. But he still kept his sense of humor all the way through. We would have scenes together and I always knew when he was forgetting his lines because he would get this side smirk on his face. We would both start laughing and when it was over, we couldn’t pull it together.
Melissa Reeves: After Michael T. Weiss, Billy was the next person I was going to marry. I was so 18 years old! I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m going to marry him I know it.” And we did have amazing chemistry. He is seven years older than me. I remember thinking, “Wow, I am only 18 and I’m working with a 25 year old!” That was so exciting. We were and still are great friends today. I was crazy about him and we worked really well together.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: This was when Jennifer started getting her own stories. She and Frankie ended up saving the world a few times. They were saving teenage prostitutes, stopping gang violence, they went on the run for awhile.
Melissa Reeves: And we ran the suicide hotline, didn’t we?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Yes. I always connected to Frankie in that way because we were both in high school and both wanted to be counselors.
Melissa Reeves: Yes, I totally forgot about that.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Meanwhile, in the two years of this story there was always this sexual chemistry that was never consummated.
Melissa Reeves: I think that was what the audience liked about it. It didn’t just go to that. That’s usually where the storylines go now, they’re in bed together the first week. I think deep down inside people thought Jennifer and Frankie were really great. They had such a strong friendship. You look at that and think, “This is how relationships should start.”
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I am still outraged to this day that Jennifer wasn’t allowed to go her high school graduation in 1987.
Melissa Reeves: I know! But then Frankie gave her one in the fishing shack. That was one of my favorite stories ever! I loved that story. That is so funny you’re reminding of this.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: After Jennifer graduated high school she was moved into more adult stories. She was always interested in journalism, and started working for Anjelica Deveraux.
Melissa Reeves: I love Jane Elliot.
Melissa Reeves: Right, I forgot about poor Emilio. Billy was so great, such a great dancer. And it worked out great because I got to dance with him. That was fun. And to dance with Billy Hufsey, which was right after FAME, he was at his peak. I always got to work with amazingly nice men with no egos. Billy Hufsey was the same. He loved being at work, he loved his job, he loved to run his lines, he loved being there. He was super professional. It’s great when you get to work with people like that because that is not always the case. And then we started with working with Matt [Ashford]. Matt and Billy are so opposite, and that made it such fun and so funny. We would laugh so hard all the time.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: When Billy Hufsey left the show briefly in early 1989, you and Matt began sharing scenes.
Melissa Reeves: Here we had been working in the same studio, we knew each other, but we had never had a scene together. We just clicked. The dialogue worked. Jennifer’s personally didn’t fit Jack at all and it totally worked. You know instantly when it works and when it doesn’t, you can just feel it. Matt and I ended up having our kids at the same time, raising our families, it was the beginning of this great working relationship and great friendship.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Before Jack and Jennifer shared scenes, had you and Matt ever hung out or gotten to know each other?
Melissa Reeves: No, never. We barely spoke two words to each other. Isn’t that funny?
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Your first scene together had Jennifer coming in to The Spectator and trying to convince Jack to let her write a story about a horse. Do you remember preparing for that?
Melissa Reeves: I remember we weren't trying to make it funny but for some reason it kept working out to be funny. There wasn’t really anything like that on daytime back then. MOONLIGHTING was such a big show at the time. We thought, “This is cool, it’s kind of like that.” We didn’t want to do what they were doing but we liked the pace of what they did, the dryness of it. That was working for us. It was a ball. And you know that Matt is so freakin’ hysterical.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Why do you think the fans gravitated to Jennifer & Jack and made them a “supercouple.”
Melissa Reeves: I think it was something so different from what they were used to seeing. Daytime used to be an escape into these fantasy relationships. Jack and Jennifer were more real. They bickered at each other, they made fun of each other. I think they just related more to our coupling. It wasn’t a romantic fantasy, we didn’t have the flowing clothes and the candles and the romantic bed scene. That didn’t quite work for our characters. We were the every day, “Life is hard, how are we going to get through it together” kind of coupling. Sometimes it was hard, sometimes it was funny. I think that is what they caught on to.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: What do you think shifted in the audience?
Melissa Reeves: I think they were looking at their own lives and thinking, “Maybe it’s okay to be like this. It’s not so bad. That as long we come together at the end of the day it’s okay to have our individual personalities. And if we’re not the most romantic couple that’s okay too, as long as we love each other.” This was more like their every day lives. You don’t spend every day with your partner lighting candles and wearing flowy robes. Women would watch our shows and they would want that. These poor guys would come home from work and be like, “You’ve been watching that show again!” With Jack and Jennifer they weren’t putting such expectations on their husbands, they were just loving them for who they were.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Come back for Part Three in which Reeves discusses the peak of Jennifer & Jack's popularity, and the downfall after Matt Ashford's infamous firing. How did she deal with negative feedback from fans? And what was behind the early 90s haircut? Find out in Part Three.
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